February 26, 2010

Review: Of All the Stupid Things

You know what happens when you try to get organized? A family member ends up in the hospital, your computer dies, and the internet eats your calendar. The IBWB Blogiversary will be a little more makeshift this year. (But still fun! It probably didn't help that school trumps the blog any day of the week.)

By Alexandra Diaz
Available now from EgmontUSA; Review copy

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OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS is the story of three friends: Tara, Whitney Blaire, and Pinkie. Each of them have issues that could fill a book alone, so it's surprising that they come together in such a slim volume. For the most part, it works. On the other hand, OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS tends to be too shallow.

I found Pinkie to be the hardest to relate too. She's desperate, calling the guy she likes and her friends constantly. Of course, she doesn't realize the guy (an older club advisor) isn't worth it, despite the fact he never once returns her calls. Now, she does begin to pull herself together and act like a sane person. But we're in her head the least, so her reasons for suddenly changing seems arbitrary. I'm all for the changes she makes in her life, but it felt more like Pinkie was following the path a reader would want her to take than acting as a fully realized character.

Whitney Blaire was an interesting protagonist: impulsive, mean, and manipulating. She's the mean girl who is secrectly looking out for her friends as well as herself. Alexandra Diaz created a character who is an interesting mix of self-interest and good intentions, who needs her relationship with her friends to stay the same since she doesn't have one with her parents. Unfortunately, Tara is nominally the main protagonist so much of Whitney Blaire's story is focused on what Tara is doing and how she feels about Tara instead of her relationships with herself, her parents, and David.

The problem with Tara is that she's a little boring. She does have father issues, since her father abandoned his family. At one point she runs into him accidentally, which leads to emotional fallout. Unfortunately, most of the fallout occurs off-page. A novel about Tara and her mother going off-the-grid to recover from the sudden encounter would be more interesting. Instead, the focus is on her boring relationship issues. She breaks it off with her boyfriend because of a rumor. She (late in the book, but the blurb gives it away) starts going out with a girl without much angst.

To be honest, it all comes back to the issue of shallowness. With less than 300 pages and three narrators and multiple issues for each narrator, OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS tends to lack drama. There isn't enough time to really get into a character's head in order to deeply empathize with what they have going on. I understood what I should be feeling throughout their troubles, but Diaz never made me felt it. As things stand, OF ALL THE STUPID things wasn't terrible. It was a good distraction for an hour. But there were glimpses of books that I'd much prefer to read within it.

February 23, 2010

Spread the Flower Love Blog Tour!


Amy Brecount White's Spread the Flower Love Blog Tour! began yesterday. She's promoting her debut novel FORGET-HER-NOTS, which will be released by Greenwillow Books on March 2nd. There will be an interview posted on IBWB during the third week.

Be sure to check it out, because she's giving away some great prizes!

February 21, 2010

In My Mailbox

I haven't done this in awhile, but I received several books last week and thought, "Why not?" This meme is hosted by The Story Siren.

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

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Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz

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Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland

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Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

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The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

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I also bought The Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole, as well as two cookbooks.

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February 17, 2010

Review: O, Juliet (+ Contest Winners)

First, the MY SOUL TO SAVE winners are:


I didn't pay attention to people's answers aside from making sure they answered the question, but oddly all three winners agreed with me that Lady Gaga should've won.

Don't forget the Vampire Academy and Vlad Tod swag contest is still open! Believe me, I recieved a pack exactly like the winner will get and it's sweet.


Second, I am having some personal issues right now. I am ineligible next year for the scholarships that have been paying for my college since I'm only attending one semester. The company that my mother worked for ceased operations in Texas, so she's currently unemployed. I'm unemployed. I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to make some money, trying to find scholarships I am eligible for, and worrying about the fact I want to intern this summer and publishing internships don't appear to pay.

But enough about me, we're here to talk books.


By Robin Maxwell
Available now from Penguin
Review copy

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I'm going to assume that everyone on this blog knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, which was well known even before Shakespeare wrote his immortal version. In fact, most of ya'll have probably seen it performed - a high school version, trip with a class, or at least the Zeferelli and/or Baz Luhrmann versions. Robin Maxwell sets her version in pre-Renaissance Florence and gives her Romeo and Juliet a passion for poetry and an age-up. I'm kind of sad it isn't set directly in the Renaissance, since they'd without a doubt be writing sonnets. And R&J go with sonnets like peanut butter goes with jelly. Just look at their first lines together in Shakespeare:

93 If I profane with my unworthiest hand
94 This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
95 My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
96 To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

97 Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
98 Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
99 For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
100 And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

101 Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

102 Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

103 O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
104 They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

105 Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

106 Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

I enjoyed tracking where Maxwell truly made the story her own. She gave Juliet a best friend in Lucrezia Tornbuoni, right before Lucrezia became one of the most powerful women of the age by marrying into the de'Medici family. She rolled Tybalt and Mercutio together to create Marco, a cousin who supports R&J's risky affair. She develops the feud in detail, offering hope that O, JULIET may have a happy ending. I liked seeing her flesh out R&J, who too often come across as callow teenagers. It's not just that she makes them the appropriate age for marriage in the new setting, but that she explores their passions outside of each other.

However, few other characters receive a fuller characterization from Maxwell's men. Jacopo Strozzi, Juliet's fiance, goes from a non-offensive obstacle to a mustache-twirling villain. His threat to castrate Romeo was perfect to me since I just finished reading THE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE, but other than that he seemed like he would fit in better tying Juliet to train tracks in a silent film. (He would, of course, say Romeo tied her to those tracks.)

There's a lot of purple prose on display, but I think it works. It's the most famous love story of our time, as well as for a few centuries before our time. Tristan and Isolde faded from pop culture awareness, but not R&J. Plus, the rhythm of the language is a good match for the poetry R&J share with each other. It makes sense that they would narrate in the same idiom.

I enjoyed O, JULIET. It hit the right buttons on my romantic side. It's not going to replace Shakespeare, but it's a good choice for a rainy day. You might even learn a little history - Maxwell did her research.

February 16, 2010

Win a Linger ARC!

Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

February 14, 2010

February 13, 2010

Review: 101 Glam Girl Ways to an Ultra Chic Lifestyle

By Dawn Del Russo
Illustrated by Barbara Ann Scarrillo

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I get the Bostick Communications e-mails (many bloggers are probably familiar with them), but I usually delete them without reading. However, the title 101 GLAM GIRL WAYS TO AN ULTRA CHIC LIFESTYLE caught my eye, and I opened it up. Dawn Del Russo's online boutique, BellaDawn.com, is cute, so I decided to give the book a chance.

The best part is the charming illustrations of Barbara Ann Scrrillo, the owner of Brushstrokes. They are all in color and all supercute. It makes the book fun to look through, which is useful when some of Del Russo's advice is repetitive or not that insightful.

Tip #34: Send flowers to yourself.

Tip #65: Fresh cut flowers.

Tip #23: Wear deodorant. (Flavor text: Do we even have to give an explanation for this one?)

The redundant and overly simple tips annoy me, because there are some helpful and inventive tips. Del Russo advocates short meditation, which I've always found helpful. (I'm less stressed, my mood is more balanced, and it's absolutely perfect before you go to sleep if you've been having trouble reaching la-la land.) She also points out where it is best to splurge - diamond studs, a nice pair of pumps, a nice black dress, and a watch. Those few designer/expensive pieces can be picked out carefully, and make the rest of your wardrobe look classier. (Plus, as Del Russo advocates, a tailor can also work wonders.)

However, even the good advice seems to breezily presented. The flavor text beneath each illustration offers some insight, but I'm the kind of person who likes to keep asking, "Why?" until I get a really good explanation. I would've preferred a book with fewer tips and more prose illustrating how to integrate the tips into your life, especially if you do need your glam girl lifestyle to be affordable.

My final verdict? 101 GLAM GIRL WAYS TO AN ULTRA CHIC LIFESTYLE is cute and fun to flip through, but it probably won't make a difference to your lifestyle unless you're a total beauty neophyte. The advice is a bit too practical and simplistic.

February 10, 2010


One of my resolutions was to participate and complete two challenges this year.

I am going to do the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, hosted by The Story Siren. I barely missed my goal with the 2009 challenge, so I'm going to once again aim for 30 books. I will make a post on the 14th or so of every month to track my progress. (That way I don't fall just a little short again.)

The Story Siren

I am also going to participate in the POC Reading Challenge, Level 5 (read 16-25 POC books). This challenge has its own blog. Like the other challenge, I will make a month post tracking my progress. I will try to write reviews of the challenge books even if they aren't review copies.

February 9, 2010

Vladimir Tod and Vampire Academy Swag Contest

Yes, the MY SOUL TO SAVE contest is still open.


SPIRIT BOUND, the fifth Vampire Academy novel by Richelle Mead, comes out on May 18th.

I haven't read this series yet, but I've heard good things and I love the other books I've read by Richelle.

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ELEVENTH GRADE BURNS, the fourth book in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer, came out today.

This series may be aimed at boys, but I'll admit to liking it. It's fun, and Heather clearly knows her vamp literature.

(You can read about my close encounter with Heather Brewer here.

And you could win a really cool prize back that contains swag for both. It includes:

*Big, signed posters of both covers (and believe me, both covers look awesome big)
*A Vampire Academy Graduate T-shirt
*A Vlad Tod logo T-shirt
*Vampire Academy temporary tattoos
*Vlad Tod buttons

The contest runs for two weeks, until 2/23. The publisher, Penguin, is providing the prize, so I again have to limit it to U.S., non-P.O. box addresses. Don't worry international readers - I'll have a contest for you soon. (By which I mean next week.)

February 5, 2010

Review: The Iron King

First order of business: Be entertained! Enter to win a copy of MY SOUL TO SAVE and giggle over the longlist for the oddest title prize.

By Julie Kagawa
Available now from Harlequin Teen
Review copy

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Meghan Chase gets crap at school for living in the middle of nowhere, but she does love her family and quickly notices that her brother has been replaced by something wrong. She decides to rescue him, and is off to search for him among the faeries with the help of her best friend Robbie, who turns out to be Puck. Obviously a book that was right up my alley, so I was very excited to read it. Unfortunately, my reaction was, "Eh."

Meghan has ties to the Summer Court, which is why Robin Goodfellow was watching her in the first place. How can Oberon have enough foresight to give her a bodyguard but not have anyone teach her the first thing about faerys? Seriously, she doesn't even know not to say thank you, which a quick exposure to choice children's lit could have taken care of. I was a bit baffled by the parenting fail.

On to the romance. Julie Kagawa does a wonderful job of showing how Robin cares for Meghan without having him say anything direct. Then there's love interest Ash, who I do like, but who seems to win Meghan over with nothing more than good looks. She trusts him and falls in love ridiculously quick. (Of course, so does Ash, while Robin is proof that faeries are inhuman and weird about that sort of stuff.)

The plot does move once the quest starts. I am interested in reading the next book and finding out how Meghan will get herself out of the pickle she put herself in. At the same time, I hope it is a step up. THE IRON KING wasn't bad, but it was average. It didn't have the spark of a modern faery tale like TITHE or EYES LIKE STARS. I was reading about things I enjoyed, but also things I'd seen done before and better.

February 3, 2010

I'm so excited!

I don't know if ya'll have heard of BookArmy, but it's a social networking site for readers like Goodreads or LibraryThing. The most obvious difference is that its based in the UK rather than the US. (I'm pretty sure I joined while I was in the UK, but can't remember.) My favorite feature is the ability to go to books that have a Browse Inside excerpt available from the publisher.

Anyway, the reason I'm excited right now is the site editor made a list of her top 50 book blogs . . . and I'm on the list! I think of this as a very small blog in a getting-bigger-everyday pond, and thus can hardly believe it. So yeah, I'm just sharing my happiness.

February 1, 2010

My Soul To Save Contest

Hey guys! I just realized this didn't post.

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Rachel Vincent's MY SOUL TO SAVE has been out for a few weeks now, so some of ya'll might've already got your hands on it. (If you haven't read the first book, you can sample the series by reading the prequel MY SOUL TO LOSE.) But this is a chance for three of my readers to win a copy of the novel.

Book 1 of The Soul Screamers series -- MY SOUL TO TAKE -- was released this past summer, and readers found out why Kaylee Cavanaugh screams bloody murder when someone’s about to die.

In Book 2 – MY SOUL TO SAVE – when teen pop star Eden croaks on stage and Kaylee doesn’t wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can’t cry for someone who has no soul.

The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad’s ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend’s loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls for a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can’t possibly understand.

Kaylee can’t let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk.

Soul Screamers: The last thing you hear before you die.


Since the Grammys were last night and MY SOUL TO SAVE involves a pop singer, I'm going to ask for a comment about album of the year. Do you agree with Taylor Swift's Fearless win? Or did you prefer Lady Gaga (The Fame), Beyonce (I Am . . . Sasha Fierce), The Dave Matthews Band (Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King), or the Black Eyed Peas (The E.N.D.)?

For two bonus entries, link to the contest from your blog/Twitter/MySpace/etc.

The three winners will be announced in three weeks, on February 15th.

(US addresses only, I'm sorry. But you can totally have a friend in the US ship it to you!)


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